What finer way to celebrate the warming air, the waking sun and the longer days of springtime than to skip down to the seaside, get your rack and ropes, and launch off on a seacliff adventure. These salty scented havens of the vertical are a quintessential british climbing joy. The land goes from horizontal, to vertical, to horizontal, giving abrupt, arm sapping and generally quite adventurous outings that live long in the forearm.
With that in mind we take a look at five great UK seacliffs to get your lactic juices flowing.
The UK’s favourite seacliff? Pembroke has a quality that brings a smile to al climbers’ faces. The climbing is solid and varied, there is a minimum abount of fuss in accesing or escaping climbs, there is a tea room to relax in in the morning and a pub to chat in at night, a cheap campsite and you always bump into an old friend.
The area itself holds thousands of routes on a variety of smaller and larger cliffs, each with its own feel. The amount of climbing increases around the E1 mark, due to the steep nature of the crags, but in recent years more and more development has produced a wealth of climbs in the Severe to HVS range.
Recommended Routes: Flimstone Crack (VD), Deidre Sud (HS), Riders on the Storm (HVS), Brazen Buttress (E2), Pleasure Dome (E3)
See more in the Wired Pembroke guide
Sea cliff royalty. Gogarth has the proudest history of any UK seacliff and for decades has attracted a band of highly committed climbers who have strung themselves out on Holyhead’s quartzite to give a crag of legendary character. So much, in fact, that these stories are in their own book, The White Cliff.
At Gogarth, think one thing; adventure. The climbs take a lot of work to access, often involving exposed sea level scrambline. The routes are steep and punchy and at the top there is invariably a pitch of steep grass to cover. It is hard to get more than a couple of routes packed into a long day.
But the rewards here are huge, and the feeling, returning to the clifftop base camp and slaking tor salty throat with fresh water, is one of the great climbing moments.
Recommended Climbs: Lighthouse Arete (VS), A Dream of White Horses (HVS), Gogarth (E1), Mousetrap (E2), Rat Race (E3), Positron (E5)
A small island with tons of rock – an essential adventure that will live long in the mind of any visitor. Big boats and small boats, an uninhabited island and sea as far as the eye can see – these all give Pabbay an expedition feel. Time on the island begins by being dropped off on the beach with supplies for your stay and, as you watch the little boat chugg away, you better hope the forecast isn’t a week of storms and if it is, that you’ve packed enough whiskey.
The rock and the climbs rank with devotees among the finest in the country. The climbs have a big feel, involving a lot of hurling abseil ropes over the edges of cliffs towards the sea. This committing nature, combined with the fact that the quality really kicks in around the VS mark, mean Pabbay is best enjoyed by the more experienced.
Recommended Climbs: Wiggly Wall (HVS), Prophesy of Drowning (E2), Endolphin Rush (E3), Ancient Mariners (E4).
See more in the book The Great Seacliffs of Scotland
Quality across the grades on blasting roughshod granite. Bosigran, and the adjacent Great Zawn, is truly special. They have a friendly yet remote atmosphere, and also the feeling that you are in one of the world’s old places. Maybe granite has the best memory of any rock?
The climbs here have fantastic character and, for people not up to speed on granite techniques, will feel pushy for the grade. Expect big moves on big features, a bit of a huff and a puff and you won’t go far wrong. Whether you are on the main Bosi cliff, pummeling up Commando Ridge or in the exposed enclosure of Great Zawn, you are tearing a glorious path and when the sun shines and the rock turns gold and the see blazes blue, you are in seacliff heaven.
Recommended climbs: Alison Rib (D), Commando Ridge (VD), Suicide Wall (E1), Dream/Liberator (E3).
See more in the CC Cornwall: Bosigran and the North Coast guide
For many climbers in the south, Portland has a powerful magnetic pull. This white peninsula is home to over 3000 sport climbs, deep water solos, trad climbs and boulder problems. An ancient deal made with the weather gods that ensures the sun always shines at Portland and this is combined with quick access to ensure the area’s popularity.
The Battleship area, Blacknor and the Cuttings all give loads of great sport climbs across the grades. For bouldering, the Cuttings Boulderfield, Cheyne Weares and the Lighthouse Area give lots of action.
Recommended climbs: Buffy’s Groove (Font 5), The Terminator (Font 7A), Reptile Smile (F6a+), Buoys will be Buoys (F6b+), Medusa Falls (F7a), Octopuss Weed (E3).
See more in the CC Portland guide.